By Stefan Slomka
Every year in September-October I aim to do some Barramundi and Reef Fishing in Central Queensland. This year I focussed predominantly on bait fishing as I wanted to field test a range of beak hooks for stocking in our new on-line business www.therighttackle.com.au. I traditionally like to use a relatively fine, carbon steel chemically sharpened beak pattern that is priced so it doesn't break the budget. I find a beak hook is basically very similar to what is referred to as a classic suicide hook pattern. At the recent AFTA tradeshow I had come across the HoSaku hook range which ticked these boxes. So this September-October I endeavoured to mainly use these hooks so as to give them a good workout (Ok, I admit I did get side tracked into a couple of metal jig and soft plastic sessions but that is another story).
When first opening the box, and taking out the hooks I literally lost some blood on the needle sharp little treasures. Well, that was a good sign I suppose and I am pretty used to cuts all over my hands after a day fishing anyway. The hooks have a nice and substantial feel to them but are not as heavy gauge as say the Big Red range from Mustad. Personally, I prefer to use a less heavy gauge hook as I find they give me slightly greater hook-up rates because they seem to take less effort to drive home. Heavier gauge hooks do tend to have intrinsically more strength though, so if your trying to force a king fish or GT away from the reef then you may want to go the heavier gauge. The one downside I found was that in one of ten packets I opened there were two incorrectly sized hooks out of a packet of 100. But I just placed them with the correctly sized hooks. Apart from that I found no easily perceptible manufacturing flaws in any of the hooks I examined.
The main reason I like to use more economical hooks (so long as they are very sharp) is that I find I go through a lot of tackle while snag bashing in the creeks or bottom bouncing on the coral reefs. Also, the hook points tend to get damaged over time by bumping against coral, Rocks and barnacles etc. I also like to have all my rigs prepared before each trip as tying rigs during an often short hot bite periods is a quick way to ensuring an average rather than awesome trip. The rig itself can also be damaged by abrasion or sharp toothed fish. So I like to check my rig regularly and if there is damage or even one of the hooks starts to become blunt I replace the rig with a fresh one immediately. Anyone who fishes regularly would have found themselves being out fished by the person next to them or missed a lot of strikes and been left wondering why. I have found that when I check my rigs at such times I often find they have become damaged and once I replace it with a fresh rig then things return to normal. This process becomes painful for the hip pocket on the dearer hooks.
So this trip I first went Barramundi Fishing at Port Alma for two days with my Son and my mate Garry. We used 3/0 and 5/0 hooks with live baits and landed Barramundi to around 85cm as well as an assortment of Threadfin Salmon. We had no trouble with the hooks while reefing them out of the snags. We used the 3/0 hooks on a two hook snooded rig when the bait is small mullet and the 5/0 hooks on larger mullet and clumps of prawns. The 3/0 hooks tend to hook the Barramundi surprisingly well, often with a clean lip hook-up. With the snooded rig we tend to only place the first hook into the bait and leave the other hook hanging free. We also used 4/0 single hooks with a peeled prawn on the bottom for Threadfin Salmon.
After the estuary workout, I went bottom bouncing out of 1770 on the southern Great Barrier Reef for five days of fishing on my annual trip with the Brisbane based Power Boat Angling club. I used 5/0, 6/0 and 7/0 hooks with large dead as well as live baits using a snooded dropper rig consisting of three hooks hanging off a 3-way crane swivel. A snooded rig, coupled with needle sharp hooks has very high hook-up rates on the table fish present on the reef. This could be because the degrees of movement a snooded rig offers over a more rigid ganged hook rig. I had no problem landing a huge variety of reef fish such as coral trout, red emperor, red throats, cod etc. A word of caution though when using snooded droppers is to use lip grips and towels to handle the fish as the freely swinging sharp hooks can be a bit dangerous. Over the whole time, I did not have a single HoSaku hook failure but I must stress we did not chase huge pelagics or large cod as we were focussed on targeting table fish.
Overall I found these hooks to provide great value for money and they helped me maintain a great catch rate for both the estuary and the reef fishing.